Executive MBA Alumni Event

President Wendy Libby

President Wendy Libby

Stetson University’s Executive MBA program hosted their Annual Alumni Event at the Citrus Club in Downtown Orlando on May 20th. The event incorporated participation from our Executive MBA Alumni, current students, Stetson University administrative leaders, faculty and staff.

The evening began with tremendous energy as the alumni networked not only with their cohort of peers, but also became acquainted with alumni from other cohorts. These connections were almost immediate as these alumni have had similar fond experiences at Stetson to share.  “It was great to see old cohort friends and catch up and meet alumni from other cohorts. I am especially excited about the vision that Dean Bakamitsos shared. The program is on a great trajectory!” Rich Tetley, Cohort 5

Alicia Matheson, Cohort 7

Alicia Matheson, Cohort 7

Stetson University leaders, President Dr. Wendy Libby and Dean of the School of Business, Dr. Tom Schwarz welcomed the enthusiastic crowd and encouraged each individual to “get involved, stay involved” and be an active participant in connecting their professional and personal lives and talents with members of the Stetson community.  President Libby shared the Strategic Plans and the direction for the future along with highlighted the significant accomplishments and growth that the University has experienced in the last 3 years.  Dean Schwarz introduced Dr. Yiorgos Bakamitsos, the new Associate Dean of Graduate Business Programs. This new position at the University is a direct result of the strategy, future expansion, and focus on graduate business programs at all Stetson campuses.

The featured presenter, Alicia Matheson, Alumni from Cohort 7, drew the crowd in when facilitating a discussion on Evolutionary Service, “meeting customer’s expectations is an evolutionary process. In today’s world, the customer has all the power! Knowing and understanding customers changing needs, expectations, and emotions and using the knowledge, coupled with the innovation and technology, to build stronger relationships that deliver memorable experiences is vital. Building these loyal relationships will help create a sustainable competitive advantage with bottom line results”, said Alicia.

Alicia proceeded to share specific examples from her 20 years of leadership experience with the Walt Disney Company, her international experience working for the United Nations, and her time as a student in the Executive MBA Program. Alicia had other alumni, share their evolutionary and innovative services that have revolutionized the health care industry (Rich Tetley, Cohort 5), and put a new company on the map (Pablo Chavez and Krista Scimeca, Cohort 10)!

Alumni and current students alike agreed that the event was a big success! Dean Schwarz welcomed a few professionals that will begin their Executive MBA journey in the fall 2014.  He assured these individuals that the challenging but rewarding months ahead would be transformational in their professional and personal lives. Valerie Drebsky who will be joining the Executive

Valerie Drebsky, Melanie Johnston and Dave Tucker - Cohort 12 with Dean Tom Schwarz

Valerie Drebsky, Melanie Johnston and Dave Tucker – Cohort 12 with Dean Tom Schwarz

MBA program in the fall with Cohort 12 said, “We were so honored to have the chance to meet not only existing students but also get to know recently graduating and existing alumni to the program. Having the opportunity to talk with individuals at all different points in their journey was as valuable as we prepare for our next steps. We ran into some familiar faces through the company we work for but we had no idea they had gone through the EMBA program so it was really refreshing to see them and know they were able to complete the program and balance it while working full time. The networking was great and connections made through the presentations helped to break the ice for individuals we didn’t know. Thank you for the invitation and looking forward to making more memories and friendships along the way!”

We had an excellent participation by all the cohorts; however, we are pleased to

Cohort 9

Cohort 9

announce that Cohort 9 had the highest participation of all.  This was their first opportunity as alumni to cherish the rich relationships that were formed both within their cohort and with the cohorts that mentored them along the way!

Dr. Bakamitsos thanked the alumni and students for their enthusiastic presence within the community and encouraged them to share their talents with others to make a difference in Central Florida and beyond!

Plans are underway for our next Alumni Event!

Cohort 9 Graduates!!!


Three cohorts - working and supporting each other!

Three cohorts – working and supporting each other!

After 19 months of hard work and dedication, we were delighted to watch our largest cohort to date cross the stage, be individually recognized, and hooded during their rite of investiture. The Dean of the School of Business and Provost shook each graduates hand as they celebrated their personal journey in the quest of an MBA degree. Family members and fellow cohorts were just as vocal about their accomplishment, as cheers erupted from the audience. “This graduation experience was so much more overwhelming than any other I’ve been a part of before. It made me realize just how hard I’ve worked throughout the EMBA program and how badly I wanted to accomplish this goal. It was so inspiring to hear every single one of our names called and know that we had walked this journey together!” – Lindsay Swantek

The commencement ceremony included a speech from Stetson University President Wendy B. Libby who gave the “charge” to graduates – a tradition of placing a duty and responsibility upon the new graduates. Libby highlighted how a Stetson University education assists graduates in moving from success to significance, and reminds them how to be of service to the world.

C9 Grad 11

“Graduation was awesome. The message to lead a life of significance resonated with me. I took the president’s charge to heart! What a great way to conclude our program. I look forward to leading an active alumni life.” – David LaRocque, Stetson Double Hatter


During the cohorts time with us at Stetson, the group have developed lifelong relationships and grown together personally and professionally, resulting in tomorrow’s future leaders. We feel very privileged to have been a part of this transformational experience which included a 10-day international trip.  We have shared in their successes, challenges, and their personal journey – the proposals, pregnancies, and the losses shaped our overall experience. We are so fortunate to have experienced all these impactful moments!

We are so proud to have Cohort 9 join the Stetson Alumni family, and hope you will stay connected and continue to share your journey and lifelong friendship with us.


Cohort 9 – Final Capstone Presentations

C9 Capstone 1

Team 1 presents

Cohort 9 completed their final capstone course on March 23, 2013, by bringing the knowledge and skills they had gained over the past 19 months, and applying these to real-life business cases. Students experienced a working product, and the processes of strategic business plan development while bringing together different functional business areas such as marketing, finance and management to develop a comprehensive plan to address the needs of the company.Each group worked with an existing company, collaborated throughout the semester by acting as a consultant to refine all aspects of their business plan, and eventually make recommendations accordingly. On the last day, the business teams presented their recommendations to the entrepreneurs and a panel of experts. Each group did a phenomenal job, making this a very rewarding experience for the students and businesses alike.

Below is a summary of the businesses that our EMBA teams were exposed to for this exercise.

The judging panel & audience

Natural Current, Inc. – Edwin, Crystal, David, Michelle & Brian.

Natural Current produces innovative and environmentally friendly products for the swimming pool industry by providing an off-grid alternative to clean residential and commercial swimming pools. The product utilizes solar technology to reduce the energy cost to the consumer, and also reduce their carbon footprint, and is capable of filtering up to 10,000 gallons of water daily.

ProFlower Design – Joe, Monica, Wayne, Nelson & Lindsay.

ProFlower Design offers unique and innovative software that has the potential to reinvent the world of floral design and events. ProFlower Designs provides a range of tools to companies in the floral industry.

C9 Capstone 2

Congratulations to the winning team!

Fusion Fitness Designs – Glorimar, Christina L., Rebecca, Bonnie & Duane.

Fusion Fitness Designs is a Florida based company which designs, manufactures and sells strength training equipment. Their mission is to “supply the international strength training equipment market with a superior product in design and aesthetics and provide new designs, increased technology and health awareness training.”

Choose Rain – Christina B., Danielle, John, Maria & Michael.

Choose Rain operates in the ultra premium bottled water category. The amount of water Americas drink has risen nearly every year and Choose Rain plans to capitalize this trend while standing out by offering a healthy alternative to the other bottled water products, which are treated with chlorine.

Summaries ‘R US – Brad, Dianne, Gwen, Toshi & Valerie.

Summaries ‘R Us is a website of textbook summaries (focusing on History and Science) that helps students to focus their studies on important and relevant information in book chapters. The site would provide chapter summaries, as well as other useful resources to help students study and manage their workload.

Congratulations to everyone on some outstanding work, and we look forward to
celebrating your graduation with you next month!!!


Executive MBA Cohort 9 Visits Deland Campus

Cohort 9 creates memories in Deland – Next visit will reward their MBA accomplishments at Graduation, May 2013

Stetson University’s Executive MBA class of 2013 visited the Deland campus, a ritual that occurs at least once during their 19-month graduate program.  This year, cohort 9 had the opportunity to collaborate with the Roland George Investment students, enjoy a conversation with Provost Paul during a catered lunch in the Carlton Union, and further their graduate studies by interacting with 3 faculty members in the fields of Finance, Integrated Business Strategy, Entrepreneurship and Strategy.

Coincidentally, the Deland City holiday parade was in full swing, so as the Executive MBA students toured the beautiful campus, the sights and sounds of holiday music, laughter, and joy filled the air.  Crystal Koepke, Walt Disney World, manager shared “this experience was one of the highlights of my graduate experience.  Being able to participate in strategic discussions, seeing how investment decisions are made by the Roland George students, and seeing Stetson University’s Main Campus gives me a greater appreciation for what I’m about to accomplish – my MBA”.

The Roland George Institute Program experience was dynamic, said Wendy Lowe, Assistant Director.  The Director, Dr. Ma and his undergraduate students, prepared student research on 3 global companies that was presented to the Executive MBA students and Board of Trustees.  This information was evaluated and a final determination of the viability of the students’ recommendation to purchase shares based on their findings was made.  The Executive MBA students were extremely impressed with the high quality of the research conducted, the apparent confidence and ability of these undergraduates to field and address questions from executive level students and finally the conclusive process that is conducted in the Roland George Investments Program.  David LaRocque, Senior IT analyst at Genworth Financial, enjoyed returning to his Alma Mater.  David shared, “I had a great sense of nostalgia and pride returning to campus as a graduate student with my Cohort.  I look forward to returning to Deland in May to graduate with my Cohort”.  David will officially become a “Double Hatter”, meaning he will have both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Stetson University.

Provost Paul shared numerous opportunities to stay connected to Stetson University upon graduation in May 2013 including career services, participating in additional course/class offerings, attending alumni events, enjoying football tailgating and games, and by continuing to share their “Stetson story” with others.  Students were encouraged to continually challenge themselves to learn, guide, and engage in the community to be “Lifelong Learners”.  By engaging in such activities, continued professional and personal growth will occur and have a profound impact.

Multiple viewpoints and group dynamics

Cohort 9 student Duane Trumble said he learned how to better manage teams, thanks to the Organizational Theory & Behavior class.

Members of Stetson University Executive MBA program’s Cohort 9 successfully completed their 12th course of 17, Organizational Theory & Behavior.  The students said they appreciated the intense discussions regarding “soft skills.” They participated in various assessments, group and individual presentations, and individual activities, which enabled the cohort to study preferences, strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for development as a person and leader.

“The Organizational Behavior course had a great impact on me,” said Duane Trumble, a Cohort 9 student who works for The Walt Disney Co. “Company organizational behavior is complex because it involves human behaviors. This course helped us learn how to utilize tools to better understand and manage teams and the organization, as well as help us with a structured personal development plan.”

Many of Trumble’s classmates added that the presentations encouraged thoughtful role playing, designed to provide a nice balance to the lectures, discussions, videos and written assessments with analysis that were threaded throughout the class sessions.  Students shared enthusiasm as they revisited their own personal development progress from when they began their Executive MBA journey just more than 12 months ago.

Stetson’s Cohort 9 visits Budapest, Istanbul

Published in Celebration News

Stetson University Executive MBA students floated between two continents as they sailed down the Bosphorus Strait between the European and Asian side of Istanbul. Astonishing views of architectural jewels like the Dolmabahce Palace, the Ortakoy Mosque and Bosphorus Bridge were glowing in the distance. Twenty-five students embarked on the trip of a lifetime as they experienced global business practices and explored the historical and cultural influences of the Middle East and European region over the course of nine days. We had a similar delight in Budapest when we sailed down the Danube River with views of Parliament, Chain Bridge and the impressive Vajdahunyuad Castle. Each year the Executive MBA program, as part of its coursework, travels to a different destination to engage with entrepreneurial and well-established companies in marketing, finance, hospitality, operations and manufacturing. Immersion in these destinations increases the students’ understanding of international business and its application to their own corporate careers.

General Electric Co., Divan Hotel Group, Budapest Bank and Koc Holdings, all profitable and expanding in this region, shared their unique goals for Istanbul, their strategic ties as business partners, and the economic opportunity with tourism growth, leveraging best practices, expanded marketing efforts, or as a “safe haven” for those wishing to escape volatile zones.

Students were provided a bird’s-eye view of lean and “just in time” manufacturing processes at both Mercedes-Benz Turk and Nokia. Just fascinating to witness a motor coach and a cell phone being assembled from parts in a very methodical manner.

Pozitron (mobile applications) and IND Group (internet banking), entrepreneurial companies, were similarly initiated by their founders during their late college days and feature a very young staff with an average age younger than 30. Both started with family financing, and now fewer than 12 years later generate huge revenue growth and sales. Pozitron reports 80% growth each year, and IND Group has revenues that top $12 million Euros with more than 220 employees in 15 countries.

The business visits were incredible, but even more significant was the appreciation we discovered for their traditions and culture by exploring the various mosques, castles, governmental buildings, and cathedrals. As we walked the pedestrian streets each night, the breathtaking architecture, community spirit and importance of maintaining traditions are evident.

To culminate our International experience, the executive students wanted to “give back.” We partnered with a local university and adult volunteers from Hakosz and treated more than 20 children in “state care” to a morning at the Budapest Safari Park. In six teams, we escorted these children, ages 4 to 12, through the various animal exhibits while playing interactive games which involved the executive students learning basic Hungarian words and the children learning some English words (by jones). The adult volunteers served as translators.

“Despite the language barriers, the walls came down with smiles, sharing of local snacks and with the help of the volunteers,” said Wendy Lowe, assistant director of the Executive MBA program. “Stetson students felt proud to be able to give these children a field trip away from their everyday surroundings and into a natural habitat where we could join in their excitement. During our three hours together, we shared more than just fun and games; we truly made a significant impact on one another’s lives! The children helped our students realize that the motto “work hard, play hard” is definitely rewarding, and as we learned at Nokia, ‘living adventurously’ is possible. We will take away numerous life lessons from our time with these loving children.”

Schwarz visits Celebration

Thomas Schwarz celebrated his birthday with Executive MBA students.

On July 13-14, Stetson University’s new dean of the School of Business, Thomas Schwarz, visited the Celebration Center’s Executive MBA current students, alumni from previous cohorts, and future students beginning their Executive MBA journey in August.

“The Center was bustling with activity and excitement as current students were reunited after their International Trip experience in Istanbul and Budapest,” said Wendy Lowe, coordinator of the Executive MBA program. “The students were recharged and ready to begin their advanced level courses starting with the Strategic Management course facilitated by Dr. Ram Subramanian, returning to teach for the third year. Ironically, our new dean and Dr. Subramanian were business colleagues many years ago, which made the visit a special reunion for them as well.”

Schwarz observed classroom instruction, visited with the executive students (individually, in small groups and collectively), engaged in interviews with prospective students, and even celebrated his birthday with his extended “Stetson family.”

Schwarz clearly set the tone with future plans for building upon the current Stetson Executive MBA success while enhancing academic innovations, placing emphasis on business application, and leveraging Stetson’s uniqueness.

“Stetson provides an authentic, rich and personal learning experience, combined with unparalleled student talent that is highly motivated, bright and experienced,” said Schwarz. “This combination is lethal. The Executive MBA faculty, staff and cohorts partner in this dynamic and collaborative process, resulting in a lifelong benefits both professionally and personally.

“We take our role in this process very seriously and are committed to growing and adapting to the evolving business needs globally.”

“The Executive MBA faculty and staff are invigorated to be a part of this opportunity,” said Lowe, “as new leadership helps guide the way.”

We’re back from our international trip!

“We’ve returned from our international trip experience to Istanbul, Turkey, and Budapest, Hungary,” said Wendy Lowe, coordinator of the Stetson University Executive MBA program.

“It was an exhilarating experience, and it was fantastic watching Cohort 9 bond. If you want to learn more about our trip, please check out our Facebook page. You can also view trip photos on our Flickr site. Enjoy!”

Schwarz to visit Celebration

You're invited to meet Dr. Schwarz during a special lunch, July 13.

Dr. Thomas Schwarz, the new dean of the Stetson University School of Business, started on June 1. He will be visiting the Celebration campus and Cohort 9 on July 13. Alumni are invited to join Cohort 9 for lunch and to meet him. Simply RSVP to Wendy Lowe, Stetson University Executive MBA program coordinator, at wlowe@stetson.edu. Schwarz will also be invited to our next Advisory Council meeting.

Below is an article posted by Stetson University when Schwarz’s appointment was first announced.

Schwarz to join Business School in June

March 08, 2012

Stetson University has selected Dr. Thomas V. Schwarz, professor and the Rick Muth Family Endowed Chair in Family Business at California State University Fullerton, as the new dean of Stetson’s School of Business Administration, effective in June.

Schwarz has extensive professional experience in both higher education and business. He has held an endowed professorship in Family Business at Cal State Fullerton’s Mihaylo College of Business Administration since 2009. Before that he was director for nine years of the Family Owned Business Institute (FOBI) and the Center for Entrepreneurship at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Mich. Since 2002, he has also served as a visiting professor of entrepreneurship at the Athens University of Economics and Business, Decision Sciences Graduate Program, in Athens, Greece.

“Dr. Schwarz will focus on advancing excellence and defining distinction in our business programs,” said Dr. Elizabeth “Beth” Paul, Stetson provost and vice president for academic affairs. ”Tom brings national and international knowledge, experience, and reputation, as well as strong strategic leadership skills and compelling vision for 21st century business education. We are thrilled to have him join our dynamic learning community.”

Schwarz earned a Doctorate of Business Administration in finance from Florida State University and also attended FSU for his MBA and undergraduate degrees. He completed post-doctoral studies in international business at the University of South Carolina and in family business advising at the Family Firm Institute.

“I couldn’t be more excited to join such a prestigious institution both for its outstanding history and its bright future,” Schwarz said. “Stetson lies at the center of growth and opportunity, and along with its staunch alumni, students, staff and faculty, its future is very bright indeed. It’s clear that these people care, and their desire is for excellence.”

Prior to joining Grand Valley in 2000, Schwarz worked in senior management and as treasurer for a family-owned manufacturing business and as an entrepreneur/owner of several other family firms. He taught finance at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and also held positions with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and in the futures industry in Chicago.

Schwarz is recognized nationally and internationally as a leader in the fields of family business and entrepreneurship. His excellence and regard in the field resulted in the prestigious award of Fellow Status from the Family Firm Institute in 2010. He previously served on the Body of Knowledge Committee of the Family Firm Institute and was the Research Program Co-Director for the Boston 2004 and the Chicago 2005 conferences. He is also a founding co-editor of the organization’s publication, the Family Firm Practitioner. He has been a member of the Strategic Planning Committee for the Family Firm Institute since 2009. He has served with the Family Enterprise Research Conference (FERC) since 2007 and was 2011 Conference co-host. Schwarz also received the Teaching Excellence Award 2003, 2004, 2006 from Athens University of Economics and Business; and an Honorable Mention Award from the 2007 Family Enterprise Research Conference.

His research interests include international family business, entrepreneurship and finance. His publications have appeared in the Journal of Finance, Family Business Review, International Journal of Emerging Markets, Journal of Banking and Finance, The International Small Business Journal, Journal of Asian Business, as well as others.  He is co-editor of the recent release of an 11-volume set titled, “Culturally-Sensitive Models of Family Business: A Compendium using the GLOBE Paradigm.”

Schwarz will succeed Dr. Stuart Michelson, who plans to return to the Stetson classroom in his position as the Sarah and Roland George Professor of Finance.